A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 9. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1970.
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THE HUNDRED OF KINGSBRIDGE
The area covered by the modern hundred of Kingsbridge lies towards the north of the county. Much of it is heavy clay-land, flat and low-lying. But in the south it climbs the chalk escarpment of the Marlborough Downs and here reaches heights of over 700 ft. The greensand belt, which runs beneath the chalk escarpment, has provided the site for several of the settlements within the hundred. Some of these settlements are still village centres, but some have declined in size and in the 20th century are represented only by large farmsteads. A fairly narrow ridge of corallian limestone runs right across the hundred from east to west and on its crest heights approaching 500 ft. are reached. Roughly in the centre of the hundred another elevation rises from the clay, formed by the exposures of Purbeck and Portland Beds on Swindon Hill.
Much of the land of the hundred is, therefore, good grassland and is dairy-farming country. In the 18th century it was renowned for its cheeses. There was also sheepfarming on a considerable scale in those parishes touching upon the chalk uplands. In the 1960s it was still mainly dairy country, although modern machinery and fertilizers made it possible greatly to increase the amount of arable. All along the limestone ridge numerous small quarries have been worked in the past to produce stone for roads and local building. Stone for a wider market was dug from quarries on Swindon Hill. It was not a region deeply involved in Wiltshire's cloth industry, although there is evidence of some of the trades connected with that industry. Since 1845, however, when the railway works of the G.W.R. came to Swindon, Wiltshire's only large industrial town has been included within the bounds of the hundred.
The modern hundred is formed from the ancient hundreds of Kingsbridge, Blackgrove, and Thornhill. The three, which were always royal hundreds, had probably been grouped together for administrative convenience by 1236 but, as will be shown below, they continued to retain their separate identities within the group until the 16th century. It will, therefore, be necessary to consider briefly the composition of the three before they finally became completely merged. Between 1084 and the time of the final merger a few important changes occurred as well as a number of minor variations. The evidence for the minor variations comes, however, from the lists compiled for purposes of taxation, and small places were clearly grouped in different ways by different collectors or on some occasions altogether ignored as separate units. Such variations, therefore, are probably of little significance. But an attempt will be made to trace the more important changes.
As is discussed in another volume of the History, (fn. 1) there are difficulties about determining exactly which places constituted the three hundreds in 1084. Thornhill at that date seems to have been made up of estates in Wanborough, Chiseldon, Liddington, Draycot Foliat, and possibly, it has been suggested, Aldbourne. (fn. 2) Wanborough, Chiseldon, Liddington, and Draycot Foliat continued to lie in Thornhill, but Aldbourne, if it was part of Thornhill in 1084, had been transferred to Selkley hundred at least by 1274. (fn. 3) Little Hinton (Hyneton) was reckoned to belong to Thornhill in 1254 and 1274, (fn. 4) although in 1254 its suit had been withdrawn from the hundred court for the past 44 years by the Bishop of Winchester (see below). In the Nomina Villarum of 1316 Little Hinton is given under both Thornhill and Elstub hundreds, (fn. 5) but thereafter it was probably reckoned to be part of Elstub, which by 1249 belonged to the Prior of St. Swithun's, Winchester, as did the manor of Little Hinton. (fn. 6)
The hundred of Kingsbridge in 1084 contained lands in Lyneham, Clyffe Pypard, Hilmarton, Highway, and possibly Broad Hinton. (fn. 7) Of these, only Lyneham continued to lie wholly within the hundred. Bupton, in Clyffe Pypard, which was probably part of the Bishop of Salisbury's manor of Bishop's Cannings by 1086, (fn. 8) was probably also reckoned to be part of the bishop's hundred of Cannings by that date. It was certainly placed in that hundred by the tax assessors of 1428 and it subsequently became part of the hundred of Potterne and Cannings. (fn. 9) Another estate in Clyffe Pypard, Bushton, was also at some time detached from the hundred of Kingsbridge. In 1377 Bushton was allotted by the tax assessors to Thornhill hundred, (fn. 10) but it was a manor belonging to St. Swithun's Priory, Winchester, and like the priory's other Wiltshire estates, it was eventually transferred to the prior's hundred of Elstub. Exactly when this occurred is not known, but it was considered to be part of that hundred by 1545. (fn. 11) Beversbrook, in Hilmarton, was probably a detached part of the hundred of Calne in 1084 and certainly was by 1334. (fn. 12) Highway was lost entirely to Kingsbridge hundred probably by 1219 when, as has been explained elsewhere, it was transferred to Cannings hundred. (fn. 13) If, as suggested above, land in Broad Hinton lay in Kingsbridge hundred in 1084, this may have comprised the tithings of Bincknoll and Uffcott, but, if so, both tithings were subsequently transferred to Blackgrove hundred (see below). Tockenham, on the other hand, seems to have been added to Kingsbridge hundred from Blackgrove by 1254 (see below). Thus Kingsbridge hundred finally consisted of the parishes of Lyneham, Clyffe Pypard (except Bupton and Bushton), Hilmarton (except Beversbrook), and Tockenham.
The changes in the composition of Blackgrove hundred are even more complicated to trace. In 1084 the hundred seems to have corresponded to Swindon, Wroughton, Lydiard Tregoze, Wootton Bassett, and Tockenham. (fn. 14) Tockenham had probably been transferred to Kingsbridge by 1254. (fn. 15) The whole of Wroughton seems to have been still regarded as part of Blackgrove in 1274, although the Prior of St. Swithun's was claiming extensive liberties for his manor of Lower Wroughton (see below), and Lower Wroughton was probably soon afterwards transferred to the prior's hundred of Elstub. (fn. 16) But four substantial tithings in Wroughton continued to be regarded as part of Blackgrove hundred. These were Overtown, Elcombe, Salthrop, and Westlecott, all of which were closely connected with other manors in parishes within the hundred. (fn. 17) By 1274 Bincknoll, a tithing in Broad Hinton, was attached to Blackgrove hundred, although Broad Hinton itself was in Selkley hundred. (fn. 18) Another tithing in Broad Hinton, Uffcott, was part of Blackgrove by 1334. (fn. 19) These two tithings in Broad Hinton with the four in Wroughton and the parishes of Swindon, Lydiard Tregoze, and Wootton Bassett then made up the hundred of Blackgrove. Thus when about the 16th century the three hundreds were finally merged under the title of Kingsbridge, (fn. 20) that hundred comprised the parishes of Wanborough, Chiseldon, Liddington, Draycot Foliat (all formerly in Thornhill), Lyneham, Clyffe Pypard (except Bupton and Bushton), Hilmarton (except Beversbrook), Tockenham (all formerly in Kingsbridge), Swindon, Lydiard Tregoze, and Wootton Bassett (all formerly in Blackgrove), and the tithings of Elcombe, Salthrop, Westlecott, Overtown (all in Wroughton parish), Uffcott, and Bincknoll (both in Broad Hinton parish). By 1624 the four tithings in Wroughton parish, together with the tithing of Uffcott in Broad Hinton, were known collectively as the five tithings, (fn. 21) a title which they retained in the 19th century. (fn. 22)
In the 13th century numerous estates and persons in the three ancient hundreds had either withdrawn their suit from the hundred or claimed specified liberties within it. In the hundred of Blackgrove in 1255 William de Valence had withdrawn the suit due from High Swindon and Gilbert Basset that from Nethercott (Swindon). The Bishop of London, the Prior of St. Swithun's, Winchester, and Sir John Lovel claimed return of writs. (fn. 23) In 1275, in the same hundred, the Prior of Bradenstoke had withdrawn his suit for two holdings in Chaddington (Lydiard Tregoze); John Tregoze for a holding in Lydiard, the Prior of Wilton for a holding in Quidhampton (Wroughton); the Abbot of Stanley for a holding in Costow (Wroughton), and an unnamed person for a holding in Mannington (Lydiard Tregoze). The Prior of St. Swithun's, Sir John Lovel, the Earl Marshal, and William de Valence claimed gallows and the assize of bread and ale. The prior also claimed return of writs and to hold fully de namio vetito. (fn. 24) These claims by the prior presumably presage the transfer of his estate at Lower Wroughton to his hundred of Elstub (see above).
In the hundred of Kingsbridge in 1255 the township of Tockenham had withdrawn its suit as had the men of Geoffrey de Wancy at Clevancy. (fn. 25) In 1265 the Prior of Bradenstoke was granted exemption from suit at the hundred court for those lands which he held in demesne at Tockenham and elsewhere. (fn. 26) In the hundred of Thornhill in 1255 the men of the Bishop of Winchester had withdrawn for the past 44 years the suit due from Little Hinton, which may already have been transferred by the Prior of Winchester to his hundred of Elstub (see above). In the same year the Bishop of Bath was said to have withdrawn the suit due from Badbury (Chiseldon) for the past 35 years. Stephen Longespée, the Prior of St. Swithun's, the Abbot of Glastonbury, and Sampson Foliot all claimed return of writs. (fn. 27) In 1275 in the same hundred the following claimed gallows and assize of bread and ale: the Prior of Winchester in Little Hinton, the heirs of Stephen Longespée in Wanborough, Sampson Foliot in Draycot, and the Prioress of Marcigny in Broome (Swindon). The Abbot of Glastonbury claimed return of writs as well as gallows and assize of bread and ale. (fn. 28)
As in the other royal hundreds, these claims and numerous withdrawals of suit led to the grouping of the three hundreds, partly no doubt to ensure sufficient business in the hundred court. Kingsbridge, Blackgrove, and Thornhill had probably been so amalgamated under one bailiff, appointed by the sheriff, by 1236. (fn. 29) Thereafter, as far as record survives, the sheriff held his tourn for the three hundreds together. (fn. 30) In 1275 the men of Thornhill hundred complained that this practice of holding one court for the three hundreds together was inconvenient to them. (fn. 31) The three were valued separately in 1255 when Kingsbridge and Blackgrove were reckoned to be worth 40s. each, and Thornhill 42s. (fn. 32) In 1275 Blackgrove was worth £5 and the sheriff rendered £3 7s. 11d. as tithingpenny for Thornhill. (fn. 33) At tourns held at Martinmas and Hockday 1291 the sheriff accounted for 65s. 3d. on both occasions as tithingpenny, apparently for the three hundreds together under the title of Kingsbridge. (fn. 34) At the tourn of 1439 £3 3s. 5d. was paid as tithingpenny. (fn. 35) At the first tourn of 1502 tithingpenny totalled £2 9s. 0d. and at the second tourn of the same year the sum was £3 14s. 5d. (fn. 36) At the Easter tourn of 1511 all profits of the court were reckoned to be £4 17s. 4d. while at the Michaelmas tourn they were £2 15s. 5d. (fn. 37) By 1651 the tourn was held once a year only, at Michaelmas, but the three weekly courts were said to be held in the usual place and according to custom. Lawday silver, or tithingpenny, payable at the tourn, then only annual, amounted to £8 15s. 8d., and this with all other profits of the court, brought the value of the hundred to £13 15s. 8d. (fn. 38)
In 1439 18 tithings appeared at the tourn. These were: Clyffe Pypard, and Broad Town; Hilmarton, Clevancy, Corton, and Witcomb; Liddington, and Medbourne; Lydiard Tregoze; Tockenham; Wanborough; Bincknoll (in Broad Hinton); Eastrop, Westrop, and Hodson (all in Chiseldon); Salthrop, Over Wroughton, and Westlecott (all in Wroughton). (fn. 39) Although Wanborough sent its tithingman to the tourn, he claimed exemption from making presentments or paying tithingpenny, and asserted his tithing's right to the assize of bread and ale. Swindon, Wootton Bassett, Lyneham, and Badbury (in Chiseldon), owed no suit, as a result, no doubt, of the claims and withdrawals made in the 13th century by William de Valence, the Earl Marshal, the Prior of Bradenstoke, and the Bishop of Bath respectively (see above). The 18 tithings appearing in 1439, with the addition of Uffcott (in Broad Hinton), owed suit at the tourns of 1502 and 1511. (fn. 40) Presentments on all occasions for which record survives were almost exclusively concerned with the repair of roadways, the removal of nuisances, and the exaction of illegal tolls by millers.
The meeting-place of Blackgrove hundred in the days when it met separately was almost certainly near Blagrove Farm in Wroughton. (fn. 41) The meeting-place of Thornhill hundred is unknown. It was presumably at some time in the tithing of Thornhill in Clyffe Pypard. But from 1084 Thornhill was always, so far as is known, reckoned to be, like Clyffe Pypard, part of Kingsbridge hundred. (fn. 42) According to tradition, the meetingplace of Kingsbridge hundred was in Clyffe Pypard, ½ mile north-west of Woodhill Park. (fn. 43)
The hundred bailiff was apparently sworn into his office publicly so as to make him known throughout the three hundreds. In 1275 some freemen of Thornhill hundred tried to excuse themselves for failing to attend an inquest at Salisbury, some 25 miles away, on the grounds that they had been summoned by someone who had not been so sworn into office, and was thus unknown to them. They were, none the less, heavily fined by the sheriff for their failure to attend. (fn. 44) In 1347 the bailiff of the combined hundreds had been imprisoned in the Marshalsea of the household for oppressions perpetrated in the course of his duties and upon his release was again accused of similar oppressions. (fn. 45) In the 1570s the hundred had two constables. (fn. 46)